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Free NBA Betting Picks - Today's Best Bets, Expert Predictions, Odds (4/21/23)

Friday night of the NBA playoffs showcases important game three matchups. Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics and Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets both look to go up 3-0 in their series. Being that no NBA team has ever come back from down 3-0, those games will either be series killers or brief series extenders. The other matchup features what should be an incredibly intense game between the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers

My playoff debut got off to a slow start. The Lakers decided not to show up to Memphis for game two, allowing the Grizzlies to get back into the series. Milwaukee hit 25 three-pointers and neither team played defense in that game, flying past that under. Timberwolves +8.5 was an awful beat and I have no idea why Kyle Anderson fouled Denver and sent them to the line when the game was all but over. It was a winless Wednesday night but I've left myself with a good amount of room to improve.

In this article, I’ll be providing my favorite picks against the spread and game totals for the NBA playoff games that tip off at 7:30 PM EST on Friday, April 21st.


NBA Betting Picks

Boston Celtics (-5.5) @ Atlanta Hawks (228 total)

Series: Celtics lead 2-0

This series has been all Boston Celtics so far. Game 1 saw the Celtics race out to a ten-point lead after the first quarter and a whopping 30-point lead at halftime. Atlanta would try hard in the second half to battle back and cover the ten-point spread but their courageous efforts fell short.

Game 2 started off better for the Hawks with them jumping out to a 22-11 lead six minutes into the game. Boston would end the quarter on a 17-3 run with a Malcolm Brogdon 42-foot buzzer-beater giving the home team a 28-25 lead after one. That shot ended up being more significant than most would think as the Celtics led every second for the rest of the game.

Although I do think the Celtics are better and five points seem low, I'm looking more toward a total in this game. The first game ended with 211 points with the closing line 230.5. Game two saw the teams combine for 225 points with the closing line being 231.5 before tipoff. After two straight under, the total dropped 2.5 points going into game three. This is where I feel there is a good opportunity for an over-game.

Atlanta has shot the ball really poorly in the first two games. They are 81/199 (40.7%) on field goal attempts and 21/77 (27.3%) from three which is simply awful. The Hawks attempted 48 three-pointers in game two and though they only hit 16, the 48 attempts were pretty encouraging. Boston was only 17th in the NBA this season in opponent three-point attempts per game so they will let their opponent get shots from deep. Quin Snyders's team attempted 98 field goals in game one and 101 in game two. That volume is pretty massive and only the Kings (98 attempts in game one), Bucks (99 attempts in game two), and Warriors (100 attempts in game three) have matched what the Hawks have been able to do in back-to-back games.

Boston has shot the ball well, hitting 90/174 (51.1%) field goals and 28/66 (42.4%) three-pointers. I'd expect that to continue as Boston finished second in offensive rating and scored the fourth most points per game this season. The Hawks were one of the worst defenses in basketball, giving up the fifth most points per game, and had the 22nd-rated defense.

The Hawks were the third-highest-scoring team this season and are leaving a ton of shots out there. These teams were close to hitting the over in game two, I think they get over the hump in game three.

The pick: Over 228 (-114 Fanduel)

Cleveland Cavaliers (+1.5) @ New York Knicks (211 total)

Series: Tied 1-1

Game 2 of this series will be remembered as the Darius Garland game. The Cleveland point guard scored 32 points while hitting six three-pointers. The game was pretty much over by halftime as the Cavs used a 34-17 second quarter to take a 20-point lead into halftime. Donovan Mitchell only scored 17 points but had a career-high 13 assists in the victory.

There were a few things to note from the Knicks' awful performance in game two. They were outrebounded 43-36 in total rebounds and outscored 17-13 in second-chance points. Rebounding and second-chance points have been a strong suit for the Knicks all seasons and a weak point for Cleveland. The Knicks were third in the NBA this season in rebounds per game and second-chance points. Cleveland came in at 25th and 23rd in those categories. I don't think the Knicks will let up that easily on the glass when it's been a huge part of their identity and what has separated them most nights.

Home sweet home 

The Knicks also play better at home than on the road. While playing in MSG, New York scored 117.3 points compared to 114.8 on the road. They also raised their field goal percentage from 46.1 to 47.9 and shot slightly better from three. I know it may seem minimal, but if this game is going to be close, you look for any edge that can help pick a side.

Improve the shooting:

New York shot poorly and very below average in game two while Cleveland shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and hit 14/33 three-pointers. The Cavs have been an elite defensive team all season but the Knicks can certainly match their intensity. Over the first two games, Jalen Brunson's squad has a 101.6 offensive rating which is towards the bottom of playoff teams. The Knicks finished fourth in the NBA in offensive rating and there is reason to believe they can find their offense.

Big game lurking?

Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Josh Hart all had quiet game twos. RJ Barrett is the name I'd look to for someone that can have a big game. Barrett has been disappointing in the opening two games, but he sees a bump in scoring and percentages while playing at home. The Knicks forward is an X-factor in the series and they really need him to step up and take some pressure off Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. Immanuel Quickley has also been way too quiet and is bound for a productive game.

I'd expect at least one or multiple of them to show up Friday night in front of what should be a crazy Madison Square Garden atmosphere.

The Pick: Knicks ML (-124 Fanduel)


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Denver Nuggets (-2) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (222 total)

Series: Nuggets lead series 2-0

After the Nuggets won game one by 29 points, it looked like game two would be a similar story.

Denver jumped out to a 31-22 lead after the opening 12 minutes and led 64-49 going into halftime. I'm not sure what happened in that Timberwolves locker room at halftime but Minnesota had one of the best quarters shooting you'll ever see. They outscored the Nuggets 40-23 in the third quarter and shot 17/22 from the floor. Finally, the Timberwolves showing some signs of life carried an 89-87 lead into the fourth quarter. The game would swing back and forth before the Nuggets started pulling away with a little under four minutes left.

Aside from that unsustainable third quarter, the Nuggets have completely controlled this series. They have won six of eight quarters, tying the fourth quarter of the game one blowout and losing the third quarter of game two. Consistently winning quarters usually is a good sign of sustainability and Denver feels like they got it rolling right now.

Jamal Murray scored 40 points with six-three pointers in game two and is fully starting to look like the dynamic guard we've come to know from the past. Re-live Murray and Anthony Edwards each going for 40 in game two below:

As much as I want to convince myself the Timberwolves will put it all together for a game, I can't get there. Denver has been too consistent and right after Minnesota won that third quarter 40-23, the Nuggets responded with a 35-24 fourth quarter to shut the game down for good.

Nikola Jokic had 27-9-9 in game two but if Jokic woke up this morning wanting to score 30+, Jokic will score 30+. He hasn't had one of those crazy games yet and we all know it's coming at some point. Denver has had the edge in assists, points in the paint, second-chance points, fast-break points, and points off turnovers in both games. They are more disciplined, have better chemistry, and do almost all the little things better that equate to playoff wins.

Minnesota is enticing at home but it would feel irresponsible to not take Denver as small favorites when they've clearly been the way better team in this series.

The pick: Nuggets -2 (-112 Fanduel)

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